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Tigers and humans can cohabitate when tigers work nights

A study in Nepal finds that endangered tigers, when facing human sprawl, restrict their usual round-the-clock activity to nighttime.

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A Bengal tiger caught by a motion-activated camera in Nepal. A two-year study of video from more than 70 motion-activated cameras near Chitwan National Park showed tigers adapt to encroaching human activity.

Neil Carter /LiveScience

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In the forests of Nepal, daytime belongs to humans, but the night is the time of the tigers, a new study finds. The results may reveal how people and predatory cats manage to coexist.

A two-year study of video from more than 70 motion-activated cameras near Chitwan National Park in south-central Nepal finds that endangered tigers aren't necessarily driven from their forest habitats when humans share the same space. Instead, the tigers restrict their usual round-the-clock activity to nighttime.

"This has highly important implications," said study researcher Jianguo Liu, a sustainability researcher at Michigan State University. "In the past, people were always thinking we needed to have tigers and people separate across space. This study indicates they can share the same space."

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Chitwan National Park is home to the greatest number of Nepal's tigers, though the big cats are rare: A 2010 survey by the Nepalese government and conservation organizations National Trust for Nature Conservation and WWF-Nepal found that about 125 tigers live in Chitwan and its surrounding areas. Tiger attacks on humans are rare, though a 17-year-old was killed by a tiger in Chitwan in April after going into the park to cut grass.

Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are likely fewer than 2,000 of these tigers in the wild. 

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